Archives for category: Ethics

Donald Trump, as everyone knows, got the best of socialized medicine when he was hospitalized at Walter Reed. He received drugs not available to the general public. One, in particular, was effective, apparently, and he called it a “miracle cure.” It is not currently available to the public; it has not yet been approved by the FDA. But if it is approved, the problems of availability, affordability, and distribution are immense, https://www.wired.com/story/trumps-miracle-cure-for-covid-is-a-logistical-nightmare/as described in this article in Wired.

It’s likely that the Food and Drug Administration will authorize these therapies for emergency use any day now. Before that happens, though, three simple questions must be answered if we’re to avoid turmoil and confusion: Who will be eligible to receive these treatments and have access to them? Where will the therapies be administered? And how muchwill they cost?

No one, certainly not Trump, has figured out the answers to these questions.

Arthur Camins, lifelong educators, knows that teachers can’t change what happens in the next few months, other than by casting their votes. But they can rebuild the foundation of our society by teaching these three things: empathy, ethics, and evidence.

He writes:

My driving force has always been a core assumption: What happens in classrooms has a significant influence on how students think and behave when they emerge into adulthood, and hence when they vote and interact with one another.

I hope students grow up to treat everyone with dignity and respect. I hope they develop the tools to make sense of the natural and social environments in which they live. I hope they develop confidence and passion to act to influence the personal, social, political circumstances around them based on human values.

I know I am not alone in these hopes. I know that most educators are trying. I know most Americans share these hopes. I know that many of us are frustrated and angry that our common dreams for students’ futures are being thwarted. School systems are being diverted from what matters most by persistent inequity and racism, high-stakes testing, efforts to privatize and monetize education, and most recently by pandemic disruption of in-person learning.

I know this: Despite and in response to the challenges, all of us– not just educators and parents– must demand that teaching should focus on what matters most: empathy, ethics, and evidence. Those essential foci cut across all subject areas, all grades, and whether students are engaged at home or in school. Students may lose facts, concepts may fade, and skills may wither but they, like the rest of us, remember how we were treated. In the short term, that influences how, whether, and what students learn. More important, it influences how they will see one another and act as humans for a lifetime.

Realistically there is no way to stop the confirmation of Trump’s third nominee to the Supreme Court unless four Republicans defect. So far, only two have shown willingness to dissent.


Sanders Statement on SCOTUS Nomination

BURLINGTON, September 26 — Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) issued the following statement on President Trump’s nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court:

“President Trump and Senate Republicans have badly mismanaged a deadly pandemic for months. Now, in the midst of an unprecedented public health crisis, they are willing to ram through a Supreme Court nominee—within days—who will vote to destroy the Affordable Care Act, kick millions of Americans off their health care, and eliminate protections for millions more who have preexisting conditions. This is an absolute outrage.

“The American people will not stand for this cynical effort to fill a Supreme Court vacancy, just days before an election, with someone who will roll back basic protections for women, workers, voters, people of color, the LGBT community, and our environment. I strongly oppose this nomination and we must fight as hard as we can to ensure that this nominee is not confirmed.”

Donald Trump, stable genius, claims that Joe Biden is suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s, that is, when he’s not claiming that Biden is a tool of the “radical left.” Watch this conversation and make your own judgment. Ask yourself how Trump would fare without a script on a teleprompter. The film also serves to remind us of another Trump characteristic: He is utterly without empathy. He despises what he calls “losers.” It is impossible to forget the time he mocked a disabled journalist at one of his rallies. It’s easy to remember that he called John McCain a “loser” because he was a POW.

This is a most interesting unscripted discussion between Joe Biden and Ady Barkan.

Ady is a brilliant progressive activist who was a supporter of Sanders, Warren, and Medicare for all.

In 2016, he was stricken with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and is completely disabled. He is dying by the day.

He asks tough questions.

I recommend the conversation.

I just finished reading Michael Cohen’s new tell-all about his years as Donald Trump’s “fixer.” It is called Disloyal: The True Story of the Former Personal Attorney to President Donald J. Trump. Quite a lot of the book consists of Cohen flaying himself for being a lackey who happily did Trump’s bidding, even when he knew that he was being asked to lie, cheat, or cover up for Trump’s misdeeds. He was a lawyer, and he showed no respect for the law. His job for Trump was to twist the law to benefit Trump and to silence those who claimed that Trump had wronged them.

There is a morbid fascination to the book. It confirms everything that Trump’s most rabid critics have said about him. He lies whenever it suits his purposes, and he expects his top executives to lie for him without hesitation. He is unscrupulous, amoral, cynical, and completely self-absorbed. Everyone else in the world is merely an instrument to advance his self-aggrandizement.

He despises the working people who constitute his base. He pretended to be a Christian to win over the evangelical leaders who met with him in Trump Tower and who blessed him with a “laying on of hands” ceremony; as soon as they left his presence, he ridiculed them. He has no religious beliefs whatever. He is obsessed with hating Obama; he even hired someone to impersonate Obama so he could pour out his wrath on the actor. Trump’s ticket to entry into politics was birtherism; he concocted a tale about sending investigators to Hawaii to determine whether Obama was an American citizen. He promised to release the findings. He never did. He claimed that Obama’s success in life was due solely to affirmative action, and hinted that Obama was a mediocre student. Meanwhile, he assigned Cohen the job of making sure that his own academic records from high school, college, and graduate school were never released.

When asked why he didn’t condemn the Saudi government for the murder of journalist Jamaal Khashoggi, Trump would say, “What the f— do I care? He shouldn’t have written what he did. He should have shut the f— up.” So much for freedom of the press.

Cohen spends much of the book explaining his attraction to Trump, whom he knew was a fraud. Trump demanded absolute and complete loyalty, and Cohen gave it to him, like a puppy dog. Cohen admitted that he was drawn to Trump’s outrageousness, his money, his power, his celebrity, his flair, and the excitement of being in a daily circus of chaos and drama. 

Cohen’s fascination with Trump is foreshadowed by his description of his adolescence. He grew up in an affluent suburb on Long Island in New York. His father was a refugee who became a doctor. Young Michael had no interest in school, other than to get by. What he liked best was hanging out at his uncle’s club in Brooklyn, El Caribe, which was a favorite of Mafia figures. They were tough and brazen. They carried guns. He admired their cool, their wealth, their power. He writes about an incident where a wise guy took off his bathing suit in the middle of the club’s swimming pool, which was crowded with women and children. The tough guys told the miscreant to put his suit on; he didn’t. Then one of them pulled a gun and shot him in his butt. Blood streaked the water. When the police arrived, nodody knew anything, no one saw it happen. Cohen relished, as a Trump executive, being armed, with a gun on his belt, another in an ankle holster. He says Trump too was armed.

We learn that Trump regularly ridicules Don Jr. in front of other people. He thinks Don Jr. is a fool and a loser. Don Jr. takes his father’s insults and put-downs with silence; he is used to his scorn. Tiffany, the only child of Marla Maples, is treated by her half-siblings as an outsider. Jared is an arrogant snob. Cohen says that Trump’s first campaign manager in 2016, Corey Lewandowski, was a drunk and was having an affair with Hope Hicks. 

Trump is very boastful about his sexual prowess. He thinks that he can have any woman he wants. Cohen recalls a day when he took his family to swim at Trump’s New Jersey golf club. Trump spotted a young woman on one of his tennis courts and said, “Look at that piece of ass. I would love some of that.” Cohen was mortified. It was his 15-year-old daughter. Cohen was too supine to object. 

If you enjoy hearing tales of how Trump managed to trick others and stiff the little guys, you will find much to enjoy. For Trump, the “art of the deal” consisted of cleverly cheating people of millions of dollars. Contractors and subcontractors who worked on Trump properties were lucky to get 20% of what Trump owed them. Anyone who threatened to sue him was threatened with a countersuit that would bankrupt them. Who wants to be sued by a billionaire with deep pockets?

Michael Cohen is in prison. It is hard to feel sorry for him. He chose his fate. As a young man, he admired gangsters, and he loved being in the company of ruthless thugs. In Trump-world, he found the environment in which he flourished, providing the muscle and threats to compel people to back off when Trump cheated them.

He is less interesting than the mega-star in whose orbit he lived: a liar, a con man, a cheat, a narcissist, a man with no ethics or morality or conscience. Trump attracted moths to his flame, and Cohen got burned.

Veteran journalist John Merrow poses the ethical dilemma of the journalist: if you see a child drowning, do you save the child or take a great photo? He says, you act as a citizen and save the child.

Thus, he criticizes Bob Woodward for saving his tapes of Trump lying about the severity of COVID. Woodward saved them for his book, knowing that the book would make lots more money than an article that released the tapes. Telling the truth months ago might have saved lives, so Trump and Woodward are both complicit in the coverup.

Eleven years ago, an airline pilot named Captain Sully Sullenberger had to carry out an emergency landing with a flight filled with 155 passengers. He couldn’t make it to the airport, and he coolly landed his plane in the center of the Hudson River, smack dab in New York City. The craft was soon surrounded by small boats that ferried the stunned passengers to land. Not a life was lost. Captain Sully was an instant sensation, and a movie was made about his accomplishment.

Now Captain Sully is speaking out against Trump. He says what so many believe. Trump has neither courage nor character.

He tweeted:

“For the first time in American history, a president has repeatedly shown utter and vulgar contempt and disrespect for those who have served and died serving our country,” Sullenberger noted.

“While I am not surprised, I am disgusted by the current occupant of the Oval Office. He has repeatedly and consistently shown himself to be completely unfit for and to have no respect for the office he holds,” Sullenberger added.

“He cannot understand selflessness because he is selfish. He cannot conceive of courage because he is a coward.”

One of Trump’s newest and most influential advisors on COVID has urged Trump to emulate the Swedish model, keeping the economy open while waiting for the population to develop “herd immunity.” The advisor, Dr. Scott Atlas, denies that these are his views, but his advice mirrors them. Trump has said repeatedly that the pandemic will magically “disappear,” which might happen at some point. But how many lives will be needlessly lost while waiting for that magic moment? The United States has 4% of the world’s population, and nearly one-quarter of the world’s infections. Trump’s laissez-faire approach to the pandemic has not slowed its spread. There is a human cost to putting the economy over health and safety.

One of President Trump’s top medical advisers is urging the White House to embrace a controversial “herd immunity” strategy to combat the pandemic, which would entail allowing the coronavirus to spread through most of the population to quickly build resistance to the virus, while taking steps to protect those in nursing homes and other vulnerable populations, according to five people familiar with the discussions.

The administration has already begun to implement some policies along these lines, according to current and former officials as well as experts, particularly with regard to testing.

The approach’s chief proponent is Scott Atlas, a neuroradiologist from Stanford’s conservative Hoover Institution, who joined the White House earlier this month as a pandemic adviser. He has advocated that the United States adopt the model Sweden has used to respond to the virus outbreak, according to these officials, which relies on lifting restrictions so the healthy can build up immunity to the disease rather than limiting social and business interactions to prevent the virus from spreading.

Sweden’s handling of the pandemic has been heavily criticized by public health officials and infectious-disease experts as reckless — the country has among the highest infection and death rates in the world. It also hasn’t escaped the deep economic problems resulting from the pandemic.

But Sweden’s approach has gained support among some conservatives who argue that social distancing restrictions are crushing the economy and infringing on people’s liberties.

How does immunity against coronavirus work? New research shows how antibodies can block infection.
That this approach is even being discussed inside the White House is drawing concern from experts inside and outside the government who note that a herd immunity strategy could lead to the country suffering hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of lost lives.

“The administration faces some pretty serious hurdles in making this argument. One is a lot of people will die, even if you can protect people in nursing homes,” said Paul Romer, a professor at New York University who won the Nobel Prize in economics in 2018. “Once it’s out in the community, we’ve seen over and over again, it ends up spreading everywhere.”

Atlas, who does not have a background in infectious diseases or epidemiology, has expanded his influence inside the White House by advocating policies that appeal to Trump’s desire to move past the pandemic and get the economy going, distressing health officials on the White House coronavirus task force and throughout the administration who worry that their advice is being followed less and less.

Atlas declined several interview requests in recent days. After the publication of this story, he released a statement through the White House: “There is no policy of the President or this administration of achieving herd immunity. There never has been any such policy recommended to the President or to anyone else from me.”

White House communications director Alyssa Farah said there is no change in the White House’s approach toward combatting the pandemic.

“President Trump is fully focused on defeating the virus through therapeutics and ultimately a vaccine. There is no discussion about changing our strategy,” she said in a statement. “We have initiated an unprecedented effort under Operation Warp Speed to safely bring a vaccine to market in record time — ending this virus through medicine is our top focus.”

White House officials said Trump has asked questions about herd immunity but has not formally embraced the strategy. The president, however, has made public comments that advocate a similar approach.

“We are aggressively sheltering those at highest risk, especially the elderly, while allowing lower-risk Americans to safely return to work and to school, and we want to see so many of those great states be open,” he said during his address to the Republican National Convention Thursday night. “We want them to be open. They have to be open. They have to get back to work.”

Atlas has fashioned himself as the “anti-Dr. Fauci,” one senior administration official said, referring to Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease official, who has repeatedly been at odds with the president over his public comments about the threat posed by the virus. He has clashed with Fauci as well as Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, over the administration’s pandemic response.

Atlas has argued both internally and in public that an increased case count will move the nation more quickly to herd immunity and won’t lead to more deaths if the vulnerable are protected. But infectious-disease experts strongly dispute that, noting that more than 25,000 people younger than 65 have died of the virus in the United States. In addition, the United States has a higher number of vulnerable people of all ages because of high rates of heart and lung disease and obesity, and millions of vulnerable people live outside nursing homes — many in the same households with children, whom Atlas believes should return to school.

Leonie Haimson writes here about Bill Gates and his successful efforts to buy positive media coverage for himself and the projects he funds.

She read the excellent investigative research on Gates’ strategic funding of influential media outlets by Tim Schwab.

She writes:

Reporter Tim Schwab just had a must-read piece in the Columbia Journalism Review about how the Gates Foundation provides grants to news outlets such as NPR, BBC, NBC, Al Jazeera, ProPublica, National Journal, The Guardian, Univision, Medium, the Financial Times, The Atlantic, the Texas Tribune, Gannett, Washington Monthly, Le Monde, the Seattle Times, and many others. These outlets frequently provide favorable coverage of the Foundation and its grantees, and potential conflicts of interest are too rarely admitted by these outlets.

Haimson goes on to describe in detail her own efforts to persuade the New York Times to acknowledge that one of its regular columns, called “Fixes,” is written by two journalists who are funded by Gates. “Fixes” has repeatedly praised Gates’ programs without identifying their conflict of interest.

She writes:

One of the media organizations Schwab discusses, Solutions Journalism, has received $7.6 million from the Gates Foundation since 2014 to write articles suggesting practical solutions to social problems and train other reporters to do so as well. Since then, as Schwab points out, SJ has repeatedly produced stories praising projects and companies that are Foundation grantees and/or have received personal investments from Bill Gates himself.

Solutions Journalism was founded by David Bornstein and Tina Rosenberg in 2013 and they continue to run the organization and receive six figure salaries as CEO and VP for Innovation respectively…

Bornstein and Rosenberg also have a regular column in the NY Times called “Fixes”, which according to Schwab has run at least 15 favorable stories promoting the work of the Gates Foundation by name, without any mention that the columnists are funded by the Foundation as well.

Haimson goes on to document the praise that these columnists have lavished in Gates-funded projects, and their failure to mention criticism. In effect, they operate as a PR team for Bill Gates and his pet projects.

She cites the ethical standards of the Times as well as the organization Solutions Journalism and points out that they don’t meet their own professed standards.

What are Bill Gates’ ethical standards?

This story in the Middletown (Connecticut) Press shows that charters in the state debated whether it was ethical to take federal money intended to help small businesses and nonprofits that might go bankrupt. Some took the money, others decided against it. The Connecticut Charter Schools Association encouraged the state’s charter schools to go for the money. Among those that did were members of large charter chains supported by billionaires.

Note the comments of Rep. Bobby Scott, chair of the House Education Committee (and a DFER favorite), who sees no dilemma, and of Connecticut’s Rep. Jahana Hayes, who acknowledges the ethical problem.

Journalist Emilie Munson writes:

As the coronavirus reshapes education, over half of Connecticut’s 22 charter schools received Paycheck Protection Program loans this spring and summer, collecting a total of at least $12.5 million to $16.5 million in federal support unavailable to traditional public schools, a review of Small Business Administration data and school board minutes shows.

The popular forgivable loans proved a source of division among charter school administrators, some of whom thought it was improper for the schools to apply for the money, while others said it was irresponsible not to….

Bruce Ravage, founder and executive director of Park City Prep in Bridgeport, applied for a PPP loan in July, after learning more about the program and realizing he would be “crazy” not to, he said. The school recently was approved for a loan of $441,000, he said.

“We’re a business that serves a very, very needy population of students and I want to be sure that I have the resources available to provide whatever it is going to take,” Ravage said. “There are corporations that have a lot more money than us that applied for this.”

Tim Dutton, director of Operations at the Bridge Academy in Bridgeport, said his school chose not to apply for a loan because it did not lose revenue or lay off employees during the pandemic, and they knew they would receive federal emergency funding.

“The decision on the Paycheck Protection Program was really just the ethical one. I didn’t think it was about bailing out schools,” Dutton said. “PPP would not be appropriate as it would look like ‘double dipping.’”

On May 13, the school board of Great Oaks Charter School in Bridgeport voted against applying for a PPP loan, believing the school was likely ineligible because it was still receiving a steady stream of state and federal funding, school board minutes show. Just over a month later, the school was approved for a PPP loan of $350,000 to $1 million, SBA data shows…

When asked about PPP loans for charter schools, House Education and Labor chairman Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., said his priority is simply securing funding for public schools, adding he does not want to “draw red lines all over the place.”
A member of the committee and former 2016 National Teacher of the Year, Rep. Jahana Hayes, D-5, said however she wants to “push for effective guardrails that prevent charter school waste, fraud and mismanagement.”
“Far too often, malicious actors in the charter school industry siphon much needed funds away from public education and from students in need,” Hayes said in a statement. “Public charter schools accessing both pots of relief funds amounts to double dipping and feeds into the skepticism and criticism that so many have surrounding charter schools. Applying for funds both as a school and a nonprofit drains resources from the public schools and communities that need it most, undermines student’s ability to learn, and threatens the very promise of equal education.”